Clarifying and answering concerns around proposed small-lot zoning for two properties on White Rock’s west Marine Drive was the aim of the city’s first-ever digital public information meeting.
Held Wednesday (July 8) evening, the meeting was hosted by manager of planning Greg Newman and development services director Carl Isaak, who responded to written comments and questions that were submitted over the course of the meeting and vetted, including for relevancy.
They emphasized that the application concerning 15081 Marine Dr. and 14945 Marine Dr. is at “early stages,” and that comments and questions fielded could lead to changes in the draft zone.
The zone – CR-3A – was proposed, the pair explained, following a December 2018 delegation to council regarding concerns around not being able to develop certain commercial properties due to existing parking requirements and other limitations.
If approved, it would “lessen the constraints applicable to small lot commercial properties in the West Beach area which currently have limited redevelopment potential due to narrow lot widths, access challenges and significant slopes,” a May 25, 2020 corporate report regarding the proposed virtual information meeting states.
In addition to allowing cash-in-lieu for off-street commercial and visitor parking – an average of $40,000 per space, with the funds directed to “parking infrastructure, facilities or investments in things that would help discourage private auto use” – the CR-3A zone would allow a maximum height of 13.7 metres (44.9 feet), Newman confirmed. The current maximum allowed height is 11.3 m (37.1 feet). Eligible properties would be those with a lot width of no more than 12.4 m.
The increase in height was an area of angst for “a group of concerned residents” who circulated a flyer anonymously early last week to West Beach-area residents stating the increases could amount to the equivalent of four storeys or higher on Marine Drive, as well as lead to “significant changes in the character and views along and from behind Marine Drive.”
Several comments and questions during Wednesday’s meeting echoed the concern.
An anonymous Victoria Drive resident said “obstruction of the view is paramount vs. any parking consideration.”
Another anonymous commenter stated “if the public has its say, the maximum height will not be more than 11.3 m.”
“You could still have an inviting ground floor and just build three stories instead under the current height restrictions,” added another. “There are no four story buildings in that area now. Why do we need to increase the height? There seems to be no consideration being given to views behind, and all lots behind have been limited in their building height.”
Isaak said it’s recognized that building heights have “impacts or potential impacts” on views, but noted that four-storey heights are already permitted along Marine Drive, between Oxford Street and Stayte Road, under the ‘Waterfront Village’ designation in the city’s official community plan.
“It’s not to say that they’re anticipated, but they’re acknowledged… within the plan,” said Newman.
The intention of the new zone, he said, is “to allow for more efficient use of constrained lands.”
In response to questions, Isaak and Newman confirmed that the draft zone exempts structures such as elevator shafts on a rooftop from the proposed maximum height, but said the detail is “something that could be looked at… if that’s a concern.”
One commenter suggested that lots impacted by the height of new development be allowed to develop “at a reciprocated height increase.”
Asked why parking couldn’t be underground to avoid a height increase, Isaak explained that at one of the sites, the lot is too narrow to allow for a ramp; and, flood-construction levels present an additional challenge at the second site.
According to minutes of the Oct. 7, 2019 land use and planning committee, the proposed CR-3A zone “could impact approximately 12 properties on Marine Drive.”
Newman and Isaak noted, however, that if it is approved, properties other than the two discussed Wednesday would have to also satisfy maximum lot-width requirements and apply for rezoning subject to public review and council approval.
A video recording of the meeting was expected to be posted to the city’s website Thursday (July 9). Newman said the questions and comments would also be shared, and encouraged anyone with further questions or comments to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
The new zone is not expected to be brought to council until at least September.